The explanation for why Anthony Davis was so much stronger in the third quarter than he was in the first half was something Lakers coach Darvin Ham was more than willing to share.
“His dumb coach started calling his plays more, calling his number more,” Ham said.
That provoked laughter from the coach and the media.
The ball that Davis found more in the third quarter led him to make 10 shots, hit six and score 14 points in 11 minutes. At 17:35 of the first half, Davis took only six shots, made three and scored seven points.
D’Angelo Russell explained what he saw of Davis in that third quarter.
“(He) dominated,” Russell said. “Dominating… And he dominated on the inside, on the outside. They were sending the double in the dribble. He was going fast. He was coming to the free throw line. He just dominated the game and everyone watched (from the) front row.”
Even with all of that, Davis was efficient, taking just 18 shots, shooting 10 and scoring 27 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the Lakers’ 122-111 win over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night on Crypto.com. Sand.
And it turns out that Ham and Davis had a chat at halftime.
“Him and I talked and I said, ‘I’m going to force-feed you man, and I’m just going to be aggressive.’ Don’t even worry about it. Just be aggressive going to the hoop,’” Ham said. “And he did it tonight. He had an arrogance about him. He wasn’t settling. He’s one of the best midrange shooters I’ve ever met, more than capable of taking down 3s. But then again, he was loving and living in the painting tonight and that’s the AD we need. That’s the AD going to… that aggression and him forcing his will, forcing them… knowing they can’t protect him.”
Midway through the third quarter, Davis demanded the ball, obviously aware that Suns backup center Jock Landale was defending him.
Russell fed the ball inside to Davis, who quickly spun toward the baseline, made two dribbles and launched a one-handed reverse dunk.
Davis yelled as he ran down the court. His teammates jumped off the bench to celebrate with him.
“I don’t care if it’s a dunk or whatever. I just want to be able to put the ball in the basket and do what I have to do for the team,” Davis said. “And obviously, being more aggressive like I was in that third quarter helps, not just me, but the whole team, because it opens things up for everyone else. But like I said at the beginning, some good looks, but the game was going for everyone else, and then in the third quarter, it was more like, ‘Okay, AD, this is your turn, now it’s your time, so go ahead. .’ We had a good game plan. Somehow it worked for us.”
Davis played 38:17 and the Lakers needed everything he had to give to improve their record to 36-37 and move them into 10th place in the Western Conference, the last entry spot.
The Lakers need Davis more than ever with LeBron James (sore right foot) still out.
So when Davis was asked to become the man in the third quarter, to be the leader, to be more forceful, he was up to the task.
He said it was a “bit of both”, of him asking for the ball and Ham imploring him to take more shots.
“He made an effort to call all my plays for basically the entire third quarter,” Davis said. “And make different looks to give me the ball when they couldn’t double. And then it was me saying, ‘OK, now go score.’ And the coaching staff and the other four players on the court were doing a good job of putting me in situations to be effective, and now it’s my job to be effective. It was a bit of both, with my mentality of going out and being aggressive in the middle, and also training. Even our point guards, Dennis (Schroder), DLo (Russell) and AR (Austin Reaves) were also on the defensive end every time they (the Suns) scored or rebounded, they slowed him down and it’s, ‘AD, what do you want? ‘ And we got into it. I just had to make a play out of it.”